“It’s about people to people”: Irish Embassy again marking St. Patrick’s Day in full

Irish embasy in Prague

In recent times Covid-19 rather put a dampener on events marking St. Patrick’s Day in Czechia. This March 17, however, the country’s embassy in Prague is again celebrating the Irish national holiday in full for the first time in some years. I spoke to the Irish ambassador to Prague, Cliona Managhan.

“I think for most people who like Ireland, who are Irish, or have an affinity, what it means is an opportunity to say, It’s March, it’s spring, and I like being with these people.

“You can do anything you want with that: culture, creative, political, economic.

“Right now we’re probably going to have nearly 900 events around the world.

“About 80 cities are impacted by this, but in a very positive way.”

Some people who don’t know so much about St. Patrick’s Day might think it’s only an excuse for drinking.

“That’s the one thing you don’t want it to be – an excuse for drinking.

“It should really be about people to people. Some of that occurs over a drink, but an awful lot of it occurs over a good meal or at a discussion or a seminar.

“Or, as we’ve just seen at the Oscars [where there were many Irish nominees]; it’s kind of been like a mini St. Patrick’s.”

In the past basically the whole of the Irish cabinet was sent off around the world at St. Patrick’s Day, to visit different countries. Does that still happen?

“Yes, but it is definitely not seen as something that is easy and a little bit of tourism; it is a really packed agenda.

“We cover every region. Every single city in America has a Good Friday Agreement programme – and that’s really part and parcel of what you’re doing.

“If a minister goes to any city, including Prague, they’re coming to learn: I’m here, what’s going on?”

You yourself have been in Prague for four years or so and you haven’t yet had any opportunity at St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate.

“Yes, this is the first in-person.

“It was very upsetting, because myself and my colleague Erin had just arrived, and literally as we arrived it [Covid] hit Europe.

“So that was it. In-person events were postponed and everything went virtual.

“Since then we’ve been making up time.

“This is the first time that we’ll do it in the Mayor’s Residence, under careful conditions.”

St. Patrick’s Day | Illustrative photo: Squirrel_photos,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0

You’re talking about the Irish Embassy’s St. Patrick’s Day party on Friday. What else is happening here?

“The interesting thing is how much more is happening.

“It’s a case of people having discussions and seminars and events.

“There’s going to be a screening and there’s obviously going to be cultural performances [at Kampus Hybernská].

“The one that I think is also interesting is the Czech-Irish Business and Cultural Association [on Saturday], because it’s a charity dinner and it raises funds.

“We have Minister Malcolm Noonan coming to that.

“He’s a Green Party minister, so it’s an opportunity for him to hear first hand, from that group of people, what’s going on, how’s Prague dealing with local issues.

“He’s coming with a background in heritage and also reform, which is very important to us.”

Illustrative photo: Giuseppe Milo,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

I understand also there’s going to be a special Irish, or St. Patrick’s Day, mass also being held in Prague?

“Yes. I’m delighted to say St. Thomas’s [in Malá Strana] have been very careful about how they’ve done this, but this year they’re having a larger gathering.

“Whether people are members of the Catholic Church, or whether they are in Christian faiths, it is really very inclusive.

“There will be a reception after that, so I’m looking forward to going to that.

“It’ll be the first St. Patrick’s. I’ve been there obviously for members of the community, when their lives were marked.

“And I’m a great fan of father [William] Fay.”

Illustrative photo: David Peterson,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0